WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2013 – A battle-weary Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said today that House Republicans are ready with a nutrition title proposal that would cut SNAP spending by $40 billion.

“The House Committee’s comprehensive bill saves $20.5 billion … Don’t be surprised when the CBO scores ring on this next product and it [says] $40 billion,” he told assembled members of the Agribusiness Club this afternoon.

Lucas indicated that the House Republican working group on nutrition reached the $40 billion figure by consensus. The group has been meeting weekly since a farm-only bill was passed early last month.

Lucas warned, however, that the Republican truce could be an uneasy one.

“Just because it appears that things have been agreed to, you never know for sure,” he said. That’s a reference to June’s farm bill vote, in which whip counts indicated the legislation might have a chance before last minute shifts caused the bill to fail.

Another difficulty: Cuts of that magnitude will prove challenging in a House that was unable to pass a less thrifty bill last month, Lucas acknowledged, which means any eventual conferees may need intercession from “on high” – Republican House leadership.

“That’s not passing the buck,” Lucas said. “It's is a tough bridge to cross without achieving consensus.”

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., called the $40 billion proposal “another political messaging bill to nowhere.”

“Adding an additional $20 billion in nutrition cuts, on top of the poison pill nutrition amendments that brought down the Agriculture Committee’s bipartisan farm bill in June, effectively kills any hopes of passing a five-year farm bill this year,” he said.

Lucas was more optimistic.

“We will have a farm bill,” he assured members of the Agribusiness Club, and noted that House staff members will continue to work on the legislation even while the congressman is in his home state of Oklahoma.

After their return from August recess, lawmakers will only have nine working days to finish the legislation. The current extension of the 2008 Farm Bill will expire on Sept. 30, at the close of the fiscal year.

This post was edited at 4:50 pm.  


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